Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Oh What A Lovely War

So another aid worker has been seized and doubtless murdered in Afghanistan. If she has not been shot by now it's only because she's being held to ransom, with a gun pointed at her head and a hood over it. If alive, she is probably in a dark cellar somewhere, with one meal a day and a plastic bag for a toilet.
How many more of these idealists will venture into that wild, barbaric land to try to help the people and build bridges of common humanity etc etc? In return for their noble intentions they are regarded as spies or - worse - Christian missionaries - and treated as criminals.
So why are we still there? Because no government is honest enough to admit that the whole idea of subduing Afghanistan is barmy. Nobody ever succeeded in the past. The Russians failed. The British Empire had the wisdom to give up and keep out. The terrain is a gift to guerillas and the defenders are breeding faster than we can pass laws on human rights. Yet we go on and on sending plucky young heroes and heroines in camouflage kits to be either blown up or reduced to a breakdown or just in the long run brutalized by what is going on there.
The recent election in Afghanistan got very little press attention here. Of course not, because it was a dismal failure, fraught with accusations of corruption and violence and producing an outcome that half the country just refused to recognize. The moral is that you can't set up a democracy somewhere in another country. It has to evolve. Our governments seem to think that democracy is like a washing-machine, something that can be taken to a given address and installed. You plumb it in, you switch it on and you expect it to work.
But it doesn't work. And I am not convinced that there is any example of a country where democracy and Islamic beliefs manage to co-exist. Co-incidence?

Friday, 17 September 2010

What I would say to the Pope.

So the Pope is visiting Britain, and being treated like a superstar, except for some rather vocal protestors. They tend to be people like Peter Tatchell who is in his own way as extreme as the Catholic Church.
I know that many Catholics such as Mother Theresa achieve splendid things. But I have my reservations about the institution and if I were invited to meet the Pope, I would be asking him some probing questions.
The persistent scandals about child sex abuse by priests are not something that is incidental, or marginal or exceptional. They present a pattern, and a very ugly pattern too. It happens all over the world and it has been going on probably for as long as the Catholic Church itself. The cover-ups are almost as bad as the scandal itself.
Apologizing - which he has only done rather tepidly - is not enough.
Saying they should have been more vigilant is not enough.
Writhing with guilt and doing penance in public would still not be enough because all of that only addresses the symptoms, not the real problem.
The Catholic church has practised hypocrisy too long. Setting up slush funds for the illegitimate children of priests is a two-faced and underhand approach.
The Pope should be asking WHY these recurrent patterns of child sex abuse happen. What is the cause? Let's go to the roots of the problem and admit that it is caused by the unreasonable rule about priestly celibacy. The Catholic Church does not allow its priests to marry. That may suit some people, and one outcome is that it attracts a lot of homosexuals. Another is that priests become warped, repressed and perverted. Denied a natural outlet for their sex drive, they resort to activities that most people would regard with revulsion.
The Protestant churches discarded the celibacy rule centuries ago, realizing that it just did a lot of harm. And in the Greek orthodox church there are plenty of married priests. So why has the Catholic church never caught up with reality?
It is scared to admit that it can ever be wrong. Or another way of putting it, is too proud and obstinate to admit that it has ever been wrong. There is nothing in the Bible that demands all followers of Jesus to be celibate. Jewish rabbis marry and have children. So do the holy men of many other religions. And let's face it, in the two thousand years that have passed since the time of Jesus, we have learned a lot more about the physiology of sex than people knew then. A sex-drive is hormonally built in to us. If you try to deny it completely, or bottle it up for life, the results can be far from pretty.
So I would say to the Pope: "Have the courage to think again about priestly celibacy. Set up some new orders for priests of both genders who will be allowed to marry, with your full public approval. It is not enough to apologize, while you continue the policies that have caused so much misery and suffering."

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

How the EU is wasting your money

Are you worried about earthquakes hitting Britain? Do you stay awake at night anxious about how you would cope? Have you noticed any fault lines running through Gloucestershire? Have you got a lot of money to spare right now from your household budget?
No, neither have I. Yet the EU is spending £900,000 on a safety exercise in Portsmouth to train emergency services to deal with an earthquake should such an event ever arise. Fire services, police and rescue teams from all over Europe are gathered together for a week-long training exercise called Operation Orion in which dummies will be dug out from under buildings that have been specially demolished for the purpose, and actors splodged with red paint play the roles of accident victims.
Meanwhile, last night at Oxford Town Hall, at a public meeting, our County police chief was talking about the immense long and short-term harm which he fears will be caused by the swingeing cuts that his service is being forced to make, because of government economies. He's not the only one of course. All aspects of our public spending are being cut to the bone. Yet the EU thinks it should be spending our taxes on combatting an imaginary earthquake.
You couldn't make it up!
Wait a moment, isn't there a real crisis in Pakistan? What about all those homeless flood victims, now threatened with starvation or malaria? What about the latest famine hitting drought regions in Africa? Couldn't the money be spent on helping REAL disaster victims over there instead of imaginary ones?
Such a way of thinking is far too logical and far too lucid for the raving loonies who run the European freak-circus. If they are worried about imaginary earthquakes, that is what they will spend the funds on. What will they combat next? Hurricanes in rural Germany? The danger of a massive asteroid hitting Spain? Lord knows. When you're dealing with nutters you never really know what to expect.